STARTUP

3 Ways to Make Managing Millennials a Little Bit Easier

The young work force can infuse your office with energy but comes with unique risks.
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Millennials are invigorating the work force with their youthful energy. If you run a fast-growing startup full of them, though, there are two unique risks that you absolutely must manage: quick turnover and rebellion against bureaucracy. If you don't, you will lose control of your business.

I discussed these hiring and management challenges with Tom Erickson, CEO of the software company Acquia. The firm has more than 450 people and generated $68 million in revenue last year. Here are his tips for eliminating the risk and working with Millennials.

1. Create a relaxed work environment.

How does Acquia do it? Erickson: "We create a work environment that feels conducive to people in their mid-20s. There are places for recreation, beer on tap, and no vacation policy. We respect that they will get their work done and will be checking their email and mobiles 24/7. If they need to take a break, they can do it. It gives them some sort of balance."

2. Make the executive team accessible to employees.

Acquia also makes sure that its staff can get access to key people in the organization. "To create a collaborative environment, we keep the organization chart as flat as possible," he says. "We want key people to be accessible, to mentor our talent, and to help map out career paths."

3. Set up processes, but be flexible.

If you let talent do what whatever it wants, you can create chaos. But if you put in place too many formal systems and rules, Millennials will get annoyed and seek greener pastures.

Acquia is willing to try new processes and fix or kill them if they don't work. "We use the lead, fire, aim approach," explained Erickson. "We see a problem, come up with a solution quickly, do it, and see how people react. If it has flaws, we fix them. If it's a disaster, we get rid of it."

Acquia's approach to managing these risks offers insights for any startup--the first is to realize that Millennials need different features in a work environment than other workers do. The second is to try to develop a culture and processes that attract and motivate Millennials, and be willing to adapt if they don't work.

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Jun 9, 2014

PETER COHAN

Strategy consultant, startup investor, teacher, corporate speaker, pundit, and author of 11 books, Peter Cohan has invested in six startups, three of which were sold for a total of $2 billion. Before founding Peter S. Cohan & Associates in 1994, he worked with HBS strategy guru Michael E. Porter.




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